The Edith Look: Using the Brush in Lightroom for a Paintbrush Effect

The Edith Look

My daughter and I were playing around in our new bedroom. She was wearing a velvet dress she’d gotten for Christmas, and I had my camera out, hoping I’d get something worthwhile. She’s three now, and that’s turning out to be quite an impossible age when it comes to standing still. Luckily for me, she struck a pose, made eye contact with the camera (that’s usually our sticking point), and I snapped (in a good way!).



I love her pose, but the cold, sunless window light wasn’t doing her any favors. I decided to do a processing style I’ve favored recently that involves making the photo very under-exposed – sometimes by two stops or more – and then bringing key elements back with the brush in Lightroom.

The first step was tweak the white balance and the camera calibration to get a more favorable hue.


It doesn’t look like a huge difference, but I’ve warmed up the white balance substantially, as well as tweaked the colors (hue, saturation, and luminance):



The next step was to darken it:

EdithLook_3basictonecurveI lowered the exposure to -1.71 (not sure of the arbitrariness of that number, but it seemed right). I played with all the values of exposure, bringing the highlights to +32 and the shadows up to +90. The tone curve itself is all over the map, with those highlights at +56, Lights at +9, Darks at +62, and Shadows at -52.

Now that the photo was striking the right chord, I used the brush tool to bring out the elements I wanted to sing. I wanted to mimic the natural light as it had fallen, so I used a large brush with soft edges, set to a 37 flow. Then I made careful strokes, like painting a canvas. When I felt an area was brighter than it should be, I set the brush to “erase” and used those same broad strokes with a low flow to gently blend out the lighted areas.



I used two brushes with the same values to achieve the look I wanted. The first is above. The second, below:


I definitely spent most of my time with the brush, trying to achieve that painterly effect. The result was this:


The light and shadow were where I wanted them to be, but the picture still looked a little cold. I added a slightly golden split-tone to warm it up a bit. And that resulted in the final photo:



So there you have it! “The Edith Look,” referring to the much-maligned middle sister of “Downton Abbey” (finally back for its new season in the States!).